“A full moon is a time to let things go,” explained Shannah Warwick, creator of the BLCKBTS (pronounced “black boots”). Letting things go feels on point as we close out 2020 and move forward into 2021. Moving forward, Shannah added, requires a New Moon. Moon energy changes with each phase of the moon. Understanding and harnessing the energy of the moon is part of what Shannah incorporates into her designs.
Based on her love of outfits she can wear with a pair of black boots, Shannah designs clothing that she would wear herself. The pieces have an undeniably metaphysical vibe. So, it’s not so surprising to discover that Shannah uses her skills as an empath to draw energy, other than moon energy, into the fabric. She explains, “I’m sensitive to energy in a way that I can read others’ energy through the framework of the layers of fabric or someone’s aura, chakra system, or astral travel. I read energy with the intent of using and integrating what I read into my work. I can create pieces for people based on their energy.”
In response to my puzzled expression, Shannah described, “That might look like me going into meditation and and asking to see the collective energy in a way that I can then transform the patterns into fabric like my Energy Scarfs. It can also look like me actually working with a client to read for them and connect in with the work they’re doing in their life and looking for a way for me to create a physical piece that represents that work.”
“I’m Witchy Woo-Woo”
Shannah is light and humorous about her abilities. She calls herself, “Witchy Woo-Woo.” However, her designs are dramatic, vibrant, and attention-getting. They embody both flow and structure. Shannah works with merino wool; hand felting sculptural shapes into the fabric. She also comes up with her own dye recipes, sometimes using organic substances like yaro or avocado peels.
“Working with fabric, dyeing fabric, shaping fabric, it all resonates with me on different levels” Shannah commented. “I grew up on a dairy farm in northeastern Pennsylvania and now live in the fingerlakes region of upstate New York on a big piece of property.” Merino wool is a natural fiber, and working with it is a tactile, labor-intensive process.
“I had a friend come photograph me once while I was working. When he showed me the pictures, I didn’t recognize my own hands. The way my hands moved and looked, it was so cool that I actually asked whose hands they were. I couldn’t believe my hands could look that way.”
Accident? (Or good moon energy?)
Shannah learned about fabric dyeing at University of the Arts in Philadelphia. “I took the class by accident,” she laughed. “I was originally doing printmaking. But I tried it and just went crazy with it.” Eventually she began to learn Nuno Felting which inflamed her passion for working with fabric even more.
“It’s a way to add texture and actually sculpt the clothes rather than sewing them,” She said. “The wool goes down into the weave of the fabric. It has memory and there were ways for me to manipulate it. It also shrinks forty-fifty percent, so you have to plan for that.” These characteristics of wool make each piece somewhat unique because they shrink just slightly differently.
She acknowledges plenty of hard work, but Shannah also conveys wonder at where she is today. She sells her work in two well-known shops in Philadelphia; Toile Atelier and Joan Shepp. Shannah is looking for a store in New York City as well, after the store she was working with closed down this past year. Along with visiting New York City again, Shannah is planning to travel more with industry shows. She is also growing a Patreon community where she teaches followers how to work with fabric and shares creative inspiration.
“I would say my creativity is inspired by community. I love making that connection with someone around a piece of art. Recently, I’ve started having Facebook live sessions on Mondays and Fridays at 11:00 AM. Sometimes, I’m just playing on camera. In fact, people really respond the most to when I sit in and play with trying on other pieces and bringing in things that I’ve collected for my wardrobe. It creates a community conversation of ideas and suggestions.”
More important than moon energy, Shannah encourages playfulness as a path to inspiration. “As an artist, I’ve chosen to be my own boss. So, I really ought to be able to have fun,” she laughed. “I could make more money working for someone else, so there better be something enjoyable about working for myself.”
Betsy Scotto-Lavino is the Director of Education and Research for The Artistic Fuel Foundation. She is also a Ph.D. student, wife, mother of three, and a nature lover. If you can't find me, I'm probably in the woods.